In 2007, after a desperate, four-month search for a diagnosis, Terry Arnold received the news. Her doctor had discovered not one, but two of the most deadly and aggressive forms of breast cancer: triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in both breasts and inflammatory breast cancer in her right breast. With his eyes full of tears, Arnold’s doctor told her she had a few months at best.
TNBC differs from more common forms of breast cancer in that its cells lack estrogen and progesterone receptors. It spreads more quickly and doesn’t respond to standard hormone therapy treatments. TNBC accounts for 10 to 20% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. and one of every four breast cancer-related deaths.
While TNBC disproportionately strikes younger women, Arnold was 49 when she decided to get a second opinion at MD Anderson.
“My doctor reran the tests and said, ‘It’s worse than your first doctor thought, but we think we can help you.’ To have someone say that was incredible,” Arnold recalls. “I was excited because he said, ‘You’ll be in treatment for 18 months, and it will be brutal.’ I remember thinking that means he thinks I’m going to live 18 months. I was the happiest woman in the world because they had a plan. I just floated home.”
It’s been seven years since Arnold’s diagnosis, and she’s cancer-free. She’s used this time to form The IBC Network Foundation, which donates to MD Anderson breast cancer research ($160,000 to date – see related story) and mentors hundreds of women fighting the disease.
“I’ve been with women from their first appointment to the day they rang that bell (to celebrate the end of treatment) and every step in between. To see them live when they were so ill, you just can’t put a price tag on that,” Arnold says. “I’ve also been with women minutes before they’ve died, and the privilege of being in a place that’s so deep in their lives is something that drives me. The joys and the memories I share with these women provide encouragement and push me forward.”